The Counselor Sales Person (CSP) is a sales methodology that was borne out of Larry Wilson’s interest in understanding how and why people make buying decisions. He drew upon the best psychology of the day–even meeting with Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers–to explain what he was seeing in sales every day.
Since that time, Wilson Learning has grown into an award-winning global leader for providing sales training programs that drive results.
You might think that a sales methodology with a 50-year history would become outmoded, but Counsellor Selling continues to lead the pack. And breakthroughs in modern psychology only continue to reaffirm why CSP’s techniques are so effective.
If you want to skip the theory and jump to learning what to do, call me. Let’s have a conversation about CSP. But if you want a deeper explanation of the psychology behind it, read on.
The Counselor Salesperson uses the metaphor of a bicycle to explain how buyers make decisions.
On a bicycle, the back wheel is what drives the bike forward, and the front wheel is what steers it and gives it direction. So, in sales, the back wheel is the need to make change in the business, solve problems, or improve business operations. It’s the thing that is driving them to shop around for solutions to begin with. The thing moving them in a buying decision is the fact that they have work they need to get done.
But the front wheel is really what’s driving who they decide to buy from. It’s the interpersonal side, the human side, the emotional influence on decision-making. How the salesperson makes them feel—comfortable with the process, confident in the decision—has a huge impact on what they decide to do.
In CSP, we explain that the front wheel is how a person decides on the buy, but THEN they use the back wheel to justify their decision. “I like this person and feel good about the decision…so I’ll justify that BECAUSE of what it does for my business.”
In his book, The Happiness Hypothesis (a psychology book, not a sales book), Jonathan Haidt explains that it’s like having a like-o-meter running all the time.
“Its influence is subtle, but careful experiments show that you have a like-dislike reaction to everything you are experiencing, even if you’re not aware of the experience. […] Your behavior is governed by opposing motivational systems: an approach system, which triggers positive emotions and makes you want to move toward certain things; and a withdrawal system, which triggers negative emotions and makes you want to pull back or avoid other things.” P.30
“I like this salesperson and want to move forward.” Or, “Why are we meeting? Are they in it for themselves? I’m not so sure about this…”
The like-o-meter is a metaphor for the balancing process in our minds, and its subtle moment-by-moment fluctuations. And we don’t even have to be conscious of its influence!
Psychologists have determined that the emotional centers in our brain are responsible for 95% of decision making. You knock out those parts of the brain, you’ll be in analysis paralysis and never move forward.
We love to think we’re logical, but people make stupid, illogical, irrational decisions all the time! That’s why we lose sure-fire deals sometimes, even though it seems obvious that the purchase is the best, most logical decision. And that’s why we win deals out of left field. Humans operate on emotionally driven decisions.
But our buyers don’t go back to the boss and say, “I’m ready to make a purchase, Boss, because I get warm fuzzies and my gut says yes.”
Nope, they’ll turn to that back wheel and justify their decisions with sound logic and reason. Every time. “Boss, check out the ROI!” In psychology, the term for this is “confabulation.”
CSP has simplified the explanation and, more importantly, provided us with practical actions that tip the odds in our favor. CSP focuses on what to do, but man, I think it’s cool to understand why. I hope you find it just as fascinating!
Want to learn more? Whether you want to explore bringing CSP to your company, or you just want to geek out about psychology with me, let’s schedule a time to talk.